Annie Dornan Smith - behind the scenes blog posts

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My House Jungle Story


My House Jungle Story - how I ended up writing and illustrating a published book! - Annie Dornan Smith


I've shared bits and pieces of the origin of my book here and there in the past, but today I wanted to write out the full "story", for those of you who don't know it, and as a little 'diary' of sorts! So, heres the story of the creation of House Jungle from last year, until now. 

It started in my 3rd year of uni studying Graphic Design and if there are others reading this have studied or are studying their 3rd year of a graphic design degree (or other creative degrees) i'm sure you'll recognise the familiar panic of realising that this is the year that counts - that you're marked on - and the pressure to choose the most exciting briefs, make incredible work and make every project count. 

I was worrying over these things during a tutorial at uni, when my tutor pointed out something beautifully obvious. Why not just make projects that you want to make? Why spend 3 years working on projects you aren't enthusiastic about in the hope that it's the right project to get you a First Class Honours. He half-jokingly suggested I made a book "about succulents or something, if that's what you like" - and I left that tutorial, bought a brand new sketchbook, christened my project 'House Jungle' and I didn't look back. (I mean, until now, whilst I'm recalling the story, obvs) 

From there I just began mapping out pages for everything I knew about plants (and the stuff I didn't) drawing tiny little thumbnails of every page to help me get a feel for layouts and pages and the order of things.

And then I sat, and painted, and lettered, and painted.

I had to make this book big, beautiful and worthy of a whole projects worth of work, so it took a lot of work. For about 3 months I got up, got dressed (sometimes) and took it page-per-day and drew, painted, lettered, researched, wrote and compiled. 

And one day I put down my paintbrush and I'd finished a whole book. I didn't spend 2 months planning (I spent about 2 days), half my thumbnails were blank or vague. I just sat down and started. And then one day, I sent it off to a printers and had 3 copies made for a grand total of £80. I'm not trying to brag, but I really just wanted to point out that about 90% of the hard work is just sitting down, every day and making it. 

Side note - of course, things came together more quickly and easily because I had spent a long time working on developing an illustration style, signature handlettering and had some fairly competent Photoshop and InDesign skills. (so, don't feel crappy if you've not written a book in 3 months yet, too!)

I wont lie, I was insanely proud of it, and I felt like it was something you guys would appreciate, too, so I contact that printers and asked for a quote for 100 copies, and resolved to make it happen and sell it in my shop. It was a lot more than a poor student at the end of my 3rd year could afford, so I decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign, pretty much in two weeks or so between handing-in, our Degree Show and New Designers. 

I was expecting the kickstarter to be a slog - of hoping and praying that people would think it was worth supporting. I was expecting to be tweeting and instagramming away right until the very end trying to persuade people my idea was worth parting with their cash for. But I was blown away that the pledges came rolling in the minute I launched. I remember hitting my goal for the 2nd day of New Designers, and standing in the sweaty heat-trap that is the Business Design Centre, with a sudden cold and sore throat, yet feeling absolutely made-up. 

I didn't do anything special to get the attention of publishers - as far as I knew I was self publishing this thing, but along with the pledges, House Jungle got about 4 or 5 offers from publishers, too. Somebody out there must be scouring the pages of Kickstarter!

After that, I went with a publisher with the offer that suited me best (both the terms as well as the money!) and we had to figure out what to do about the 200-or-so people who had pledged for a copy of House Jungle. My publisher wanted to wait until next year to launch (in order to have time to make edits and big-it-up appropriately) so I spent the next few months sorting out contracts, making adjustments - in the end I made my handwriting into a font to make the editing (and translation!!) easier. We added a few extra pages and made a few americanisations ("mummy plant" and "compost" were an issue!) and now here we are!

House Jungle will be officially launching Sept 01 of this ear, and my copies for your pre-orders should be winging their way to me soon! 

Got a question? Shoot me an email!